Dalglish content after drab draw

KENNY DALGLISH waited 9,394 days to get the chance to manage Liverpool in Europe but after a turgid Europa League goalless draw against Sparta Prague, he must have wondered why he looked forward to it so much.

The 59-year-old missed out on continental competition in his first spell as Reds boss because of the ban on English clubs after the Heysel disaster.

Despite the significance of his debut, this last-32 first-leg match in the Czech Republic is unlikely to live long in Dalglish’s or anyone else’s memory.

Goalkeeper Jose Reina was Liverpool’s best — and busiest — player with a few good saves, but even then he was not severely tested.

Dalglish jokingly pointed to his “undefeated” European record afterwards before adding: “It wasn’t a classic but we’re reasonably happy.

“The onus was on them to put us under pressure and they didn’t really, most of the time it came from us misplacing passes. I think 0-0 was fair enough, we’re happy with that.”

The visitors’ first-half play was disjointed and lacked a cutting edge.

In the biting cold of the Generali Arena, Liverpool, without captain Steven Gerrard, tried to gain control by holding on to possession they never managed to make any ground by doing so.

In fact, it was Sparta who created the few chances, most of which were created from wide positions as full-backs Ondrej Kusnir, on the right, and the particularly effective Manuel Pamic advanced at regular intervals.

That was in contrast to Liverpool’s two wide defenders, with Glen Johnson, back in his more familiar right-sided role, and Danny Wilson, a centre-back playing on the left, rarely getting the opportunity to go forward.

Pamic gave Johnson problems in the first half and almost capitalised to great effect in the 17th minute.

Martin Abena slid a pass inside the England defender and Pamic raced into the penalty area to drill a low shot from a narrow angle which Reina parried to safety.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos was next to the Reds’ rescue, putting in a diving block to halt former Reading midfielder Marek Matejovsky’s shot as it travelled goalwards.

The second half was little different from what had gone before except for Liverpool enjoying slightly more possession.

But the successful passing game which had been so evident in their six-match unbeaten Premier League run never really got going.

Sparta continued to pose the greater threat, however, and Leony Kweuke headed just wide from range on the hour. Liverpool’s best chance came with 20 minutes to go when Lucas Leiva’s lofted pass picked out Johnson on the right of the penalty area.

He weaved inside but instead of shooting with his left foot — with which he has scored some screamers from range — he opted for the outside of his right and poked the ball past the far post.

Reina had to be alert to stop Kweuke’s shot on the turn from a corner, while Matejovsky’s 25-yard effort curled just wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

Stand-in captain Jamie Carragher said: “You’d like the away goal but I’d say it’s advantage us. We’ve been scoring some goals recently and we haven’t done that tonight but in Europe it’s slightly different, we’re quite pleased with a goalless draw.”

SPARTA PRAGUE: Blazek, Kusnir, Repka, Brabec, Pamic, Keric (Sionko 73), Vacek, Kadlec (Zeman 89), Matejovsky (Pekhart 90), Abena, Kweuke.

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Kuyt, Lucas, Maxi, Aurelio (Cole 38), Ngog (Skrtel 84), Meireles.

Ref: Florian Meyer (Germany).

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